Courtesy Reuters

Regional Pacts: Strong Points or Storm Cellars?

THIRTY years have passed since "the great debate" over the League of Nations after one world war, and less than four since we hailed the United Nations as promising at least some compensation for the sacrifices of a second. Yet today we find ourselves facing again the question that seemed settled -- whether the interests of the United States are as wide as the world or can be narrowed to particular areas? The debate has already begun, with men of good will ranged on both sides, precipitated by the announcement of a treaty for the mutual defense of the United States and certain countries of Western Europe.

This treaty, if adopted, may prove to be one of those great occasional acts which determine the whole course of a nation's foreign relations. There is every propriety, then, and indeed an overwhelming necessity, that it be examined with care, discussed at length, and acted upon with a full consciousness on the part of those concerned -- namely, all the American people -- of the special significance of each possible course of action regarding it.

The sponsors of the treaty evidently have both military and political aims in view, both heavy with psychological overtones. The question in the minds of some observers as to the precedence which should be given each will doubtless be a factor in the debate. Can any recommendation be made that might reconcile them? Another question is what effect the adoption of a regional security pact among the strongest western Powers will have on nations which are not included, and, more important still, on the universal security system of the United Nations. Finally, there is the question how these considerations affect the long-view interests of the United States, especially its paramount interest in establishing security and peace. I shall take the questions up in reverse order, beginning with the last and largest.

II. NEUTRALITY VERSUS COLLECTIVE SECURITY

Any tendency to replace the general United Nations commitment to oppose aggression by

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